Tuesday, September 17, 2013

CBR V Review #35: The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan

“When she was pregnant with Teddy, she feared that she’d give birth to a child who disliked reading. It would be like giving birth to a foreign species.” 

I'm not going to lie to you here, kids - if you are coming here for a glowing review of that book a bunch of people recommended, you're gonna want to look elsewhere.

This is a bunch of stories that all center, somehow, around diamonds.  The framework tale is of the woman who created the tagline "A diamond is forever" for De Beers, aka those people who own the monopoly on the diamond industry.  For the few people out there who don't know about it, the diamond as a status symbol and engagement requirement was created by marketing companies and the De Beers corporation in the 1940s.  Before that, the gemstone was irrelevant, and most engagement rings or jeweled rings in general were handed down through the generations rather than bought anew.  The diamond engagement ring standard was created to make De Beers more money.  It's truly fascinating stuff, and a history well worth reading.  It also makes up the only part of the book I was consistently glad to read.  Mary Frances Gerety is awesome, and I loved when a chapter was part of her story.  Added bonus that her story took place over 40 years, and it's lovely.  She's also the only non-fictional character, although obviously her chapters are fictionalized versions of her actual history.

As to the others, mileage varies.  Kate, the most contemporary story, I could not stand even a little - she's every self righteous hippie douche I've ever come across in one completely obnoxious package.  If you want to live your life a different way than other people, good on ya, but for Christ's sake keep your mouth shut about it.  HATE HER.  James, set in the late 1980s, was...fine.  I think my issue with James' story was that it was so bleak.  It made me dread getting to his chapters.  Delphine, the only non American, set in 2003, yo-yo'd a bit for me.  There were times I was all about her and her anger, and then times where I couldn't believe how selfish she was.  Evelyn, from 1972, was second to Ms. Gerety in my enjoyment, though mostly because I loved her chapters where she reflected on her youth.

The seemingly unconnected stories naturally do connect, and that is honestly the only reason I finished reading it.  I mean, the prose is wonderful - Sullivan knows her way around the English language.  But pretty prose isn't enough for me.  Parts of the connection were fun and interesting, and it is fairly difficult to figure all the parts of it out ahead of time.

I can't exactly recommend the book, since I had trouble convincing myself to pick it up to read more.  But it is beautifully written, and many people who aren't me loved it a lot.  So I encourage you to try a bit of it for yourself and see how you fare!

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